Flynn was incarcerated in an unnamed California prison in 1969 on a drug bust and this graceful, elegiac little book was composed for the men inside doing their time--each with a different, equally futile strategem for defeating the numbing routine, the disintegration of personality, the violence of prison life. He includes the guards in the ranks of those sentenced; one, named Absurdo by the inmates, is among the saddest figures of these fleeting encapsulations. Flynn describes trying to negotiate an impossible dividing line between the two apparently inescapable alternatives: ""predator or victim."" He talks about those who tried to escape; those who sought to become collaborators in the prison bureaucracy. A middle-class Sixties kid (""We saw ourselves as both outlaws and pioneers""), he projects an utterly helpless compassion for the trapped men among whom he lived: ""The crazed intensity of this world makes a parody of ail emotion. We need too much."" As Tom Wicker's foreword notes, ""it is not a book of protest and demands for reform""; but Flynn's receptivity to the daily distortions of humanity, the suspended lives around him, and his unerring eye for the demeaning details of prison life give this small book its special sensibility.